Volume 1, Number 11 – November, 2021
The Story of Two Bears
In a village there lived an old couple who often had sharp quarrels. Suddenly they quit quarreling, and they were never heard to dispute again. The town folk wondered what made the change. Finally one woman asked. “Two bears did it,” said the wife. “Two bears?” “Yes, two bears we found in the Bible… ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and Forbearing one another in love (Eph. 4:2).’”
“You Will Know Them by Their Fruits”
In Matthew 7:15-16, Christ warns us about false prophets. He urges us to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” After warning us against these false prophets, Christ explains how we can identify them. He declares, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” These verses analogize the teaching of the gospel by describing the natural production of fruit.
False prophets are not the only ones bearing fruits. Faithful Christians are commanded by Christ to bear fruits. Speaking to His apostles, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). Jesus also tells us what we need to do in order to bear fruit: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5). A branch must stay firmly attached to the trunk to stay alive. As disciples of Christ, we must stay firmly connected to Him to remain spiritually productive. A branch draws strength, nourishment, protection, and energy from the vine. If it is broken off, it quickly dies and becomes unfruitful. When we neglect our spiritual life, ignore the Word of God, skimp on prayer, and withhold from fellowship with faithful brothers and sisters, we are like a branch broken off the vine. Our lives become fruitless. We need daily surrender, daily communication, and daily – sometimes hourly – repentance in order to “walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
According to Paul, Christians should produce the following fruits: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:16). Are we producing these same fruits? Remember Christ’s words: we will be known by our fruits!
The Church Does Make a Difference
Charles G. Maples, Sr.
A commonly accepted philosophy, relative to one’s spiritual welfare, is that “the church doesn’t make any difference,” and so the conclusion is that one should just “join the church of his choice,” or “you don’t have to be a member of any church to be saved.” But I submit to you that this is NOT what the Word of God teaches! Following are some plain, concrete reasons why we must conclude that the church to which one belongs DOES “make a difference!”
THE CHURCH WAS IN THE ETERNAL PURPOSE” OF GOD!
Read with me in Ephesians 3:8-11, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to His eternal purpose, which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Does this not suggest that the church would “make a difference!?”
CHRIST BUILT HIS CHURCH!
(Even the thought of that Scriptural Fact, should surely suggest that “The Church DOES Make A Difference!”) After having asked His disciples about just Who did they consider Him to be; being answered by the apostle Peter “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God;” Jesus replied, “upon this rock (Peter’s confession) I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:14-18). Surely, no thoughtful person would conclude that HIS “church doesn’t make any difference!”
JESUS PURCHASED THE CHURCH WITH HIS BLOOD!
The apostle Paul urged the Ephesian Elders to “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28; cf. Ephesians 5:25). Can anyone even think that the Christ would be required by God the Father to die that cruel death of the cross; shedding His blood for something that “Makes No Difference?”
CHRIST PUTS ALL OF THE SAVED INTO THE CHURCH!
In Acts 2 we read of the first preaching of the gospel of Christ under the great commission, and the first offer of “Remission of Sins.” We are told that what was preached “pricked the hearts” of many of those who heard, and when they asked “what shall we do?” they were told to “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (v. 38), then in verse 41 Inspiration tells us that “As many as gladly received the Word were baptized, and there was added to them that day about three thousand souls.” Then in verse 41 we also see “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Could we possibly conclude that the in which all the “Saved” are admitted by God “makes no difference?”
ALL, IN BECOMING CHRISTIANS, ARE “BAPTIZED INTO THE ONE BODY.”
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13), and we read in Ephesians 1:22f that the “body is the church.”
THE CHURCH IS THE KINGDOM OF THE “KING OF KINGS!”
In addition to the fact that in Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus used the terms “church” and “kingdom” synonymously, other Scriptures indicate the same. In Mark 9:31 Jesus assured His apostles that some of them would not die before His kingdom would “come with power.” In Acts 1:8 He promised that the “power” would come with the Holy Spirit, and in verse 5 He assured the apostles that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from the time of that statement. The apostles WERE baptized with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and we read of people being added to His church (as seen before) that day (Acts 2:1-47). In Hebrews 12:23 and verse 28 we see again the terms “church” and “kingdom” used with reference to the same institution! Indeed, can anyone say that the KINGDOM of “the King of Kings” (I Timothy 6:15) “makes no difference!?”
“CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR HER!” (EPHESIANS 5:25)
How could something that Christ loved enough to die for, be considered to “make no difference?” And then add to that, as seen in verse 27 of that same chapter, that Christ will finally “PRESENT HER (THE CHURCH) TO HIMSELF!” Do you think that at the end of time, the Lord will present to Himself something that “makes no difference?”
Let it be understood that all of the above Scriptures speak of THE LORD’S CHURCH; they have nothing to do with the many churches founded upon, and directed by the wisdom of men! THOSE CHURCHES, not only do not “make a difference,” in that they do not contribute to one’s salvation; but they believe, teach and practice doctrines which are CONTRARY TO SALVATION! In light of that, please read carefully 2 John 9; Colossians 3:17 and Revelation 22:18-19!
Some Uplifting Verses
- Isaiah 40:31 – “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
- Mark 10:27 – “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
- Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
- Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
- Psalm 145:9 – “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all He has made.”
- Romans 8:31 – “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
True repentance means to change your mind, do an about-face, to change direction. In the con- text of salvation, it refers to changing one’s mind about sinning, turning from sin, and turning to God. It is prompted by a guilty conscience (Acts 2:37-38) and is attainable through the goodness and kindness of God (Rom. 2:4). But for repentance to be accepted by God, it must be genuine and sincere. It is here that I fear Christians sometimes abuse repentance.
It is possible, for example, to use repentance as an escape hatch for “planned sinning.” That is, a Christian might knowingly commit sin, thinking that they can “always repent later.” Or, one can go through the motions of repenting, without understanding or intending to comply with the changed life which it demands. After all, repentance has fruit, John the Baptist said (Mt. 3:8). Peter commanded his hearers to “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). And Paul told Agrippa that he “preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20).
Any prayer to God for forgiveness which leaves a mental loophole for continued sinning is no repentance at all. Such mental finagling is an attempt to mock God, which Paul says cannot be done (Gal. 6:7). Have you really changed your mind about your sin, or are you trying to have it both ways? Remember, the Lord already knows the answer.
All Can Be Forgiven
Have you ever known someone who refused to become a Christian or to be faithful because he said he did not believe God would forgive him? If someone you know says this, or if you yourself utter these words, I encourage you to consider the “chief of sinners” who disproves this theory.
We are first introduced to the man who become the apostle Paul in Acts 7. It is here where we learn of the persecution that Saul, as he was known then, brought against the early church. In Acts 7:54-60, we find Saul overseeing the stoning of Stephen, a devout disciple of God, unto death. Saul did not stop there though. No, it is recorded that, even after the stoning of Stephen, Saul continued making “havoc of the church” (Acts 8:3). In other words, Saul was working in direct opposition to God and Christ. One may think that someone who works directly against God surely will not receive His mercy and opportunity for salvation. Let’s examine the rest of Saul’s story to find out if this thinking is true.
In Acts 9:2, Saul was on his way to Damascus to gather Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem to persecute them. It was on the road to Damascus when the Lord spoke to him and made him aware that he had been persecuting Christ Himself by persecuting the church (Acts 9:4-5). Upon hearing these words, Saul desired to be forgiven of the terrible sins he had committed. The Lord then told him, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). The Lord sent Ananias to Saul to tell him how to wash away his sins and be forgiven: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). When Saul came up out of the water, he was a “new creature” “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Gal. 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-5), and his sins had been washed away.
Even though Saul had a well-known reputation as a persecutor against Christians – “Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem’” (Acts 9:13) – he could (and did) receive forgiveness. Paul would later write that he was “the chief of sinners,” and the fact that he was forgiven serves as a “pattern” for all sinners who would later seek forgiveness through Christ: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
The example of Saul/Paul shows that if he could be forgiven, then anyone can be forgiven! Like the father of the prodigal son, our loving Father will run to you and embrace you if you will but simply come to Him! (Luke 15:20).
Volume 1, Number 12 – November, 2021
The Bible Says…
“And these will go a way into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
Those who do not know God or do not obey the good news of Jesus Christ shall be punished in a lake of fire (II Thessalonians 1:8 9 and Revelation 21:8). Many like to believe that the punishment is taking place now, on Earth; others want you to believe that Hell is simply an annihilation of our being; while still many disbelieve altogether, thinking God will not send his creation to such a place. Be not deceived! The punishment is as real as Heaven (the passage speaks of both); it will be consciously suffered and it will last forever. Prepare to meet God. TODAY!
I remember my grandfather telling me about an elderly gentleman who had an accident while farming. His tractor tipped over, pinning the man for two days underneath the tractor. It was reported that members of the church he attended came and discovered him pinned underneath his tractor. What was the reason they sought him out? The elderly farmer, who was faithful to attend when the church assembled, had missed Wednesday night services. What does this say about us?
On one hand, we can ask the question, “Does it seem strange for me to miss services?” Remember, the reason some of the members of that congregation had gone looking for the elderly farmer was due to the fact he had missed a Wednesday night service. Is our attendance that consistent? If we are following the pattern God has established, it will be! Hebrews 10:25 says, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
What if you were to have a similar emergency? Would your absence be noticed? Or, would members here assume that you just decided not to come today because you were tired, or one of many excuses you constantly offer? Ask yourself, how many services have you missed in the last year? Can you honestly count yourself as a faithful, regular worshipper at this congregation? Some brethren seem to think, “So what if I’m just at services every now and then? If that’s the worst sin I ever commit, I’ll make it to Heaven.” Are you sure of that? The Bible says that all sin separates us from God (Isa. 59:1-2; Rom. 6:23). The Bible makes it clear that we can lose our souls over just one sin (Acts 8:13-24). How many times does a person have to willfully miss to commit a sin? The first time is just as much a sin as the fourth time or the fortieth time, if it is willful sin (Heb. 10:26).
Another lesson we can take from this story is the care that the brethren show for one another. The Hebrew writer told us in Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We should be doing this by attending services and encouraging one another. However, the brethren also showed concern for their brother when he was not at services. They had a concern for their brother’s soul and for his physical well-being when he was not at services. Do we have the same care and compassion? Whenever brethren are absent do we check up on them? Even when they give a reason for their absence, do we attempt to check up on them ourselves? Let us obey Hebrews 10:24 and show our love toward our brethren.
Listening for God’s Voice
A man and his friend were in downtown New York City during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs squealing around corners, sirens wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the man said, “I hear a cricket.” His friend said, “What? You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all this noise!” “No, I’m sure of it,” the man said, “I heard a cricket.” “That’s crazy,” said the friend.
The man listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes beneath the branches, and sure enough, there was a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!” “No,” said the Man. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.” “But that can’t be,” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in all this noise.”
“Yes you can,” came the reply. “Here, let me show you.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. With the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed that every person’s head within twenty feet turned and looked to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs. “See what I mean?” asked the man. “It all depends on what’s important to you, and what you’re listening for.”
What’s important to us? What do we listen for? Are there times we fail to listen to God because we are focused on other things more important to us? Regarding the Jews, Jesus said, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.” (Matthew 13:15-16; cf Isaiah 6:9-10; Acts 28:26-27).
Brethren, amid the distractions of the world all around us, may our ears always be open, not only ready to listen for, but to hear and be obedient to God’s voice as He speaks to us through His word (1 Samuel 3:9-10; cf. John 8:47; John 10:4; John 10:27; 1 John 4:6).
Racism is sin, a sin dividing the human family, blotting out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violating the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is a sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of race. The sin of racism mocks the words of Jesus – “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity each human is provided by God since Creation.
God’s love is unconditional (in a sense) in that we, though we separate ourselves from God through sin, He continues to love us. In fact, Paul proclaims, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we are to exemplify God and Jesus in our life as we are commanded (Matthew 5:48), then we too must love people unconditionally, regardless of race or ethnicity. Racism is a work of the flesh. No one should be favored or discriminated against because of their nationality or skin color. God is no respecter of persons. Peter himself needed to be reminded of this fact in Acts 10. The Lord appeared to Peter in a vision helping him understand “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). Proverbs 22:2 plainly teaches no matter who we are, what background we come from, the color of our skin, the language we speak, our financial circumstances, etc., we all have this in common – “The Lord is the maker of [us] all.” Similarly, Proverbs 24:23 tells us “These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment.” Why then does racism through the form of negative perceptions concerning interracial marriage exist within the church today?
Some suppose the Bible condemns interracial marriages because of a command given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:3-4, which states, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.” Something worth noting about this command is the fact that skin color was not a reason why the Lord condemned intermarriage between the Israelites and other nations.
Instead, God imposed this restriction because He knew the Jews would turn away from Him due to temptations of falling into idolatry. God wanted to keep His people separate from the sinful nations around them to keep them from being corrupted by sinful practices. Further- more, the people who God forbade the Jews from marrying are specified in Ezra 9:1. The groups of people listed are all dark skinned nations similar to the Jews. Thus, differences in skin color was not the reason why God condemned intermarriage between the Jews and the other nations. It was condemned because of the temptation of idolatry (Nehemiah 13:23-26).
Another point worth noting is this verse does not apply to Christians today. This restriction was specifically for the Jews, which is made evident in Joshua 23:12-13. We do not have this same restriction today. When Christ died, He made the Old Covenant “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13). In other words, commands from the Old Covenant do not apply to Christians today. The only way God’s command to the Israelites may be applied today would be as an illustration to encourage Christians to marry fellow Christians. It is possible for a non-believer to pull a believer away from Christ into a sinful lifestyle. Thus, it is wise to marry someone who shares our beliefs. However, it is not plausible for us to use those verses to support the notion of interracial marriage as a sin because there are no New Testament passages forbidding people from marrying outside their own race. In fact, Peter told Cornelius’ family (Gentiles), “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Peter, a man who once was unwilling to teach non-Jewish people, realized it was (and is) wrong to believe one group of people is any different than another group.
We should be like Peter and recognize the error in such a mind set because “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28), and we are all one TO Christ.
The New Testament repeatedly celebrates the fact that Jesus’ redemptive work has brought believing Jews and Gentiles, once separated by the ceremonial law, into one body – the church. No passage states this more clearly than Ephesians 2:11-22. Here, Paul indicates Christians of all ethnicities have been made heirs of the covenant promises, being brought into one body with all other believers as members of the family of God. To classify interracial marriage as sin is to deny an accomplishment of the atoning work of Jesus Christ. It is a contradiction of what the Gospel does in reconciling all believers “to God in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16). Racism in the church, or indifference to it, is thus inimical to the Gospel and to the purposes of the saving work of Christ, since all can be united to Christ no matter their ethnicity. The work of Christ creates the communion of the saints, and Christians are to support and bear witness to the reality of that communion.
The Bible, our infallible guide in all matters of human relationships, speaks clearly and explicitly against racism, prejudice, and discrimination. The Old Testament declares all people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; 5:1-2). Similarly, the New Testament shows how barriers separating us from one another have been broken down through the life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 3:11). In the early church, the apostles confronted racial divisions, and it is clear their response was reconciliation through the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:1-7; 10:1-22). Based on these un- equivocal biblical mandates, racism and, more specifically, negative perceptions concerning interracial marriage is a sin against our fellowman, and therefore a sin against God, who has created all humankind in His image.
Volume 1, Number 13 – November, 2021
What Must I Do?
A rich young ruler once came running up to Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). In this man’s case, Jesus told him to sell what he had and give to the poor. His possessions were holding him back. He needed to put the Lord first. Deeply disappointed, he left the Lord clinging to his worldly possessions (v. 22).
When the Jews on the day of Pentecost realized they had put to death the Son of God, their very Lord, they asked the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter told them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38). That day, about three thousand gladly received his word and were baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the Lord added them to the church (v. 41).
When the Philippian jailor realized all his prisoners had not escaped, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas, asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They told him he needed to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30- 31). Then, having spoken the word of the Lord to him and all who were in his house, they were baptized (Acts 16:32-33). Having obeyed the gospel, they then rejoiced, “having believed in God” (Acts 16:34).
What must you do to be saved? Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Will you go away sorrowful today or humbly submit to obedience and have rejoicing today?
Feeling Overwhelmed or Stressed? Consider these Verses:
- Psalm 121:1-2 – “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
- Psalm 50:15 – The Lord says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.”
- Matthew 11:28 – Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
“Faith Comes by Hearing” . . . and Singing
Paul, in Romans 10:17 asserts, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In Ephesians 5:19, he also informs us of our obligation to “speak to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Let us meditate on the purpose of this command.
In the following verse (v. 20), Paul explains the reason why we have this command – we should speak in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as a way to give thanks to God our Father. If we look at other passages in the Bible though, I believe we will learn another reason why spiritual singing is so vital.
In Acts 16:25-34, we see Paul and Silas imprisoned as result of their dedication to spreading the Word of Christ. Verse 25 paints a beautiful picture for us: “at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.” Though jailed for their faith, Paul and Silas were able to find joy in their time of tribulation by praising God in song. What stands out the most though, at least to me, is the prisoners’ response – “the prisoners were listening to them” (v.25). Not only were Paul and Silas able to comfort themselves by praising God in song, but their praise was also a means of exposing others to God’s word. Remember Romans 10:17 – “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The prisoners were “hearing” (as well as seeing) the example that Paul and Silas set. The prisoners weren’t the only ones affected by the two singing though.
In verse 26 we read of a “great earthquake” that caused all the doors of the prison to open and “everyone’s chains were loosed.” One would assume the prisoners would jump at the opportunity to flee since they were free to escape their imprisonment as result of the earthquake. This was not the case though: “And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here’” (v. 27-28). No one tried to flee even though they surely could have escaped. Why?
It is my belief that, as result of the prisoner’s hearing Paul and Silas praying singing praises to God, they developed faith in God/Christ, which convinced them not to be concerned with their current situation and, instead, find comfort as Paul and Silas did. As result, the Philippian jailer’s life was saved due to the effect that singing and praying had on the prisoners. A man who was prepared to die instead sought salvation (v. 30) and, ultimately, “he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (v. 34).
Let us never downplay the importance of “speak[ing] to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Likewise, let us never forget its two-fold purpose of giving thanks to God and spreading His word.
- It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.
- Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on the door forever.
- Don’t put a question mark where God put a period.
- God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.
- God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
- A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.
Close to, Round About, or Nearby
One Sunday, a minister was illustrating his belief that baptism should take place by sprinkling, not by immersion. As examples, he said that when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, and when Philip baptized the eunuch in some water, it didn’t mean, “in” – it meant, “close to, round about, or nearby.” After the service, a man came up to the minister and told him it was a great sermon, one of the best he had ever heard and that it cleared up a great many mysteries he had encountered in the Bible.
“For instance,” he said, “The story about Jonah getting swallowed by the whale has always bothered me. Now I know that Jonah wasn’t really in the whale, but close to, round about, or nearby, swimming in the water.”
“Then there is the story about the three young Hebrew boys who were thrown into the furious furnace, but were not burned. Now I see they were not really in the fire, just close to, round about, or nearby, just keeping warm.”
“But the hardest of all the stories for me to believe has always been the story of Daniel getting thrown into the lion’s den. But now I see that he wasn’t really in the lion’s den, but close to, roundabout, or nearby, like at the zoo.”
“The revealing of these mysteries has been a real comfort to me because I am a wicked man. Now I am gratified to know that I won’t be in hell, but close to, roundabout, or nearby. And next Sunday, I won’t have to be in church, just close to, round about, or nearby. Thanks. You have really put my mind at ease!”
Lord, Hear Our Prayer
In Psalm 143:1 David pleads, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, and in Your righteousness.” We all want our prayers to be heard and answered but the sad fact is many simply do not know how to pray. It is not uncommon in regard to prayer to hear folks say they don’t know what to say or how to say it. Even the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). While Jesus answered His disciples with the model prayer (and the outline He sets forth for us there is indeed a great place to start) I want us to consider something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:7–8 Jesus sets forth important factors that, if followed, will benefit us with regard to prayer. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The application of this in line with our subject of prayer is that our prayer should be…
- Simple. Jesus said, “Ask.” Asking is a prerequisite of receiving. Verse 8 says, “For everyone who asks receives.” James said, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Pray is not as complicated as men often teach or think. Keep it simple, ask God.
- Intense. Jesus says, “Seek.” Seeking is a pre-condition of discovery. Again in verse 8 Jesus says, “he who seeks finds.” Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Prayer should be a pouring out of ourselves to God.
- Persistent. Jesus said, “Knock.” Knocking is the persistent action by which the divine store-house of God’s blessings is accessed. Notice again Jesus says, “to him who knocks it will be opened.” We often think of persistence in prayer in the framework of repeatedly asking God for the same thing, but may I suggest that persistence here may have more to do with Paul’s instruction to, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How persistent are we in prayer?
While these things will all help us in regards to aiding in the Lord hearing our prayers there is one other crucial factor that must be mentioned. Above all else, in order for the Lord to hear and answer our prayers, we must be right with God! James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” 1 Peter 3:12 declares, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”
If you are not in a right relationship with God today you need to understand that your sins are hindering the ears of the Lord from hearing your prayers. Isaiah 59:2 proclaims, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” Jesus died for every person on the cross, became our advocate so that we might have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). If you will come to Him in obedience, repenting of your sins, confessing His name, and being baptized for the remission of your sins, He will cleanse you and open His ear to you. If you are a Christian who has fallen away, if you will repent and ask His forgiveness, you can once again enjoy the privilege of saying, “Lord, hear my prayer,” and the assurance that He will.
Nearer to God
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” In order for God to draw near to us, we must take action and draw near to Him. He will not comfort us if we do not confide in Him; He will not lead us unless we follow Him; He will not provide for us if we do not serve Him; He will not forgive us unless we acknowledge our sins before Him.
There’s an old hymn we sing that is worded like this: “Nearer, still nearer, Lord, to be thine, Sin with its follies I gladly resign” (Lelia N. Morris). The writer of this hymn acknowledges that we must “resign” from our sins, or withdraw from them, in order to draw nearer to God. Therefore, we must take action in order to be close to God. Let us take action and resign from our sins, drawing ever near to God!
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).